January 14th, 2008
07:18 AM ET
1 year ago

Clinton backer appears to raise Obama's drug use

ALT TEXT

Clinton and Johnson attended services at the Northminster Presbyterian Church Sunday (Photo Credit: AP)

(CNN) – BET founder and prominent Hillary Clinton supporter Bob Johnson said Sunday he is 'insulted' with the Obama campaign's latest criticisms of Clinton, and appeared to take aim at the Illinois senator for his admitted drug use as a young man.

"As an African American, I'm frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Bill and Hillary Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing but he said it in his book," Johnson said while campaigning with Clinton in Columbia South Carolina.

In a statement released by Obama's campaign Sunday afternoon, former South Carolina State Rep. "I.S." Leevy Johnson, an Obama supporter, said he was offended Clinton did not condemn Johnson's comments.

“It’s offensive that Senator Clinton literally stood by and said nothing as another one of her campaign’s top supporters launched a personal, divisive attack on Barack Obama,” he said. “For someone who decries the politics of personal destruction, she should’ve immediately denounced these attacks on the spot.”

Clinton's campaign says Johnson was not referring to Obama's past drug use, but rather his career as an organizer and state legislator. Meanwhile, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, another African-American supporter of Clinton, said of the comments, "Sometimes people say things that aren't sanctioned ... I can't speak for Bob."

Later Sunday, Johnson maintained the comments were not in reference to Obama's drug use: "My comments today were referring to Barack Obama's time spent as a community organizer, and nothing else," he said in an issued statement. "Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect."

In Obama's 1995 book Dreams of My Father — a book that was little read at the time, but recently reprinted — the future presidential candidate writes he was once headed in the direction of a "junkie" and a "pothead."

Referring to his emotional struggles as a young man, Obama writes, "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though."

Last month, Clinton New Hampshire co-chairman Bill Shaheen resigned his post after suggesting Republicans would likely raise the issue in a general election.

"The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight … and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use," Shaheen said then. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'"

Both campaigns are locked in a heated back and forth over recent remarks from the New York Democrat and her husband that have touched off concerns among some African-American voters. Clinton has alleged Obama's campaign is distorting the remarks - an accusation Obama has called "ludicrous."

Related video: BET founder on Clinton, Obama

– CNN's Sasha Johnson and Alexander Mooney

soundoff (1,037 Responses)
  1. Hector

    This is just pure desperation on the part of Hillary Clinton.I'll tell you what,this person has NO sence of HONESTY orthe ability to say or do the right thing.Hillary Clinton for president,NO WAY.

    January 14, 2008 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  2. Roger

    I will vote for any democrat BUT her.

    If she ends up getting the nomination I will vote for any presidential candidate BUT her.

    I'm insulted by her manipulation of the system, of her backstabbing, of her lies. She exemplifies all of the worst stereotypes of a lawyer.

    We've had plenty of presidential candidates in the past who I didn't agree with at all when it comes to policy issues, but there were very few of them who I didn't like or trust as a human being. The current president is one of them. Hillary is another.

    January 14, 2008 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  3. David, Silver Spring MD

    Wait a second–is Johnson saying that Barack Obama's work as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, working intensively with low-income black people, was not "deeply and emotionally involved" in black issues?

    Is he saying that Barack Obama, who has been waking up every morning, living every day, and going to sleep every night as a black man; who is married to a black woman; who is father to two black daughters, is not "deeply and emotionally involved in black issues"?

    If H and B Clinton have been more deeply and emotionally involved in black issues than Barack Obama, they have certainly been more deeply and emotionally involved than Bob Johnson.

    January 14, 2008 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  4. HH, Pittsburgh, PA

    Obama's youthful experimentation with drugs should not be an issue. His honesty is refreshing, while you know that the Clintons are lying every time they open their mouths. MOST people under the age of 60 have tried pot at least once. Anyone who says he/she hasn't is either stiff or a liar.

    January 14, 2008 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  5. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    James posted: "I for one will not vote for Hillary in the primary or general election. If Obama gets the nomination I will vote for him. Should we do an unscientific poll? Who will stay home or vote Republican if Hillary gets the nomination"

    Great – just like an Obama supporter – "If my candidate doesn’t win the nomination, I'm going to stomp my feet like a two year old and vote Republican just for spite". Good for you James. It's idiots like you who will get us back into another 8 years of dismal Republican leadership.

    Here's an unscientific poll for you – how many people think that James and people like him are acting pathetic and immature?

    Get a life James. This is one election cycle. If this man that you have put on a pedestal and chosen to worship is as great as you say he is. He will be back. Oops, I forgot, Obama too is stomping his feet and pouting and saying if he does not win the niomination he will never run again. That goes to show you how committed to our nation he is. Another empty suit that will say and do anything for power.

    January 14, 2008 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  6. Mike in Kentucky

    So if I understand this correctly: If I publicly and in writing, admit to past criminal behavior, possession and use of illegal drugs (marijuana and cocaine) then I will innoculate myself from future responsibility for my actions or from discussions or criticisms of my behavior even if I run for the highest office in the United States government?

    I wonder what other past behavior can be excused in this way?

    I'll bet the Republicans don't buy this line of reasoning.

    As to the MLK/LBJ comments: Martin Luther King Jr. was the poetry of the civil rights movement but Lyndon Johnson was the prose, to use a currently fashionable phrase. Dr. King pushed the envelope and he pushed it hard, but President Johnson saw to it that the laws were changed.

    I see no racism here, just a statment of the facts.

    January 14, 2008 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  7. Mary, Beaver, PA

    Clinton's supporters are full of dirty tricks, aren't they? This is what you can expect if this horrible woman is elected president.

    January 14, 2008 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  8. Robin Wagner from ct

    Hillary clinton all time lows . Using race to get votes . Barack never used race in his cam pain . Never

    January 14, 2008 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  9. Jay

    Can you say Desperation?

    I have been watching this campaign since jump, and I have to say the Obama camp is running a very clean campaign.

    There will always be folks who do the wrong things for what they think are the right reasons. People who want their candidate to win so badly that they will do anything to put down the competition.

    That having been said Hillary and Bill have had no compunction about trying to exploit any angle they can to bring down Obama.

    I understand their frustration; for the last eight years so many people have been saying that Hillary "Will" be the next president of the united states, and they started to believe their own hype. Now Obama seems to have the momentum so naturally you see the frightened desperation coming from the Clinton camp.

    You can also see the venom in the face and mannerisms of Hillary and Bill when they comment on Obama. It's almost as if they have a deep personal disgust for the man. It's kind of scary how so many Clinton "romantics" are too blind to see this.

    It's time to stop living in the past. The 90's are over.

    January 14, 2008 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  10. Chris, Middletown, CT

    Everything Hillary says or does is calculated (even a staffers comments are also calculated) – when people say they are "supporting Hillary" – which one?? do you know the real one?? (I sure don't.....but the ones I've seen...I don't like anyway)

    January 14, 2008 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  11. obamasupporter

    Bob Johnson? Please. Why is this even considered news? This is coming from the man who made his billions exploiting his own people via booty shaking music videos. At least Oprah who is supporting Obama made her billions trying to inspire people to do better. And isn't that what Obama is trying to do, rise above the fray and work towards a better America and actually have a "United" States.

    January 14, 2008 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  12. Pickles, Monaca, PA

    You can bet that Hillary and Johnson both tried pot at least once in their lives. The difference between them and Obama is that they are HYPOCRITES and he is not. The Clintons have been out of office for eight years, but the more I hear from them, the more I am reminded how EVIL they are and how LOW they will stoop to get what they want.

    January 14, 2008 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  13. Lia

    Why has Hillary not repudiated Andrew Cuomo's remarks that candidates should not think they can shuck and jive their way to the White House? That remark can't be spun. We should be discussing that!

    January 14, 2008 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  14. Antoin

    So lets get this straight Bob Johnson. You don't support Barack Obama for his past drug use, but you'll support 16 hours (sometimes more) of "Black" Entertainment Television for artists, performers, and celebraties who gloat about their current drug use. Previous commentator was right, your nothing but an Al Sharpton and the direction that you have brought BET over the last couple of years is one of the main reasons the African American community has lost direction in what seemed like progression years ago. Barack Obama sort of reminds me of Tavis Smiley and its no suprise you want to get rid of him too.

    January 14, 2008 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  15. NONAB

    I THINK POLITICIANS TRY TO BLOW UP ANY COMMENT TO TAKE THE VOTERS ATTENTION AWAY FROM REAL ISSUES. I WISH MORE CANDIDATES WOULD FOLLOW THE DUNCAN HUNTER LEAD AND STICK TO THE ISSUES THAT ARE VITAL TO AMERICA'S SURVIVAL.
    I COULD NOT VOTE FOR CLINTON OR OBAMA KNOWING THEY IGNORE THE WILL OF AMERICAN PEOPLE WHO WANT OUR BORDERS SAFE. THEY WOULD OPEN THE OVAL OFFICE LIKE A SAFE HAVEN FOR ILLEAGALS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES.....OBAMA SAYS HE IS OK WITH ILLEGALS HAVING A DRIVER'S LICENSE......MR OBAMA, DO YOU RECALL THE SEPTEMBER 11th? A DRIVER'S LICENSE IN THE WRONG HANDS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA!
    GROW UP AND STOP PLAYING THE RACE CARD AND THE GENDER CARD...AND DEAL A FAIR HAND TO AMRICA!!!

    January 14, 2008 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  16. CDR

    The OBAMA ’08 Story: This is No Fairytale!

    IMAGINE a passionate young scholar organizing for progressive change in the streets of one of the largest and toughest cities in the nation. Imagine a trial lawyer fighting for change and civil rights in the courtrooms for the rights of the common laborer against corrupt industry. Imagine a skilled constitutional law professor equipped with a mastery and knowledge of the protections and the checks and balances of our Nation’s most powerful blueprint: The Constitution. Imagine a State Legislature with 8 years of service who is “…not against war but against dumb wars.” Imagine a junior United States senator, with service on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which oversees our nation’s health care, schools, employment, and retirement programs; with service on the Environment and Public Works Committee, which protects our environment and provides funding for our highways, bridges, and levies; with service on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which is focused on providing our brave veterans with the care and services they deserve; and with service on the Foreign Relations Committee, which plays a vital role in shaping American policy around the world, including Iraq. Now, Imagine a Leader with the judgment not to mislead this Nation into a dumb war. Now, IMAGINE CHANGE! Imagine a Leader who can UNITE our Nation and its people. Imagine America’s sons and daughter’s – our heroes… our troops. Imagine them safe and coming back from Iraq. You can only IMAGINE ONE LEADER and that’s no “Fairytale!” However, like a fairytale the good guy ultimately wins and with every vote for Obama you ensure a Hopeful future and a Happy Ending!

    -CDR

    January 14, 2008 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  17. NONAB

    I THINK POLITICIANS TRY TO BLOW UP ANY COMMENT TO TAKE THE VOTERS ATTENTION AWAY FROM REAL ISSUES. I WISH MORE CANDIDATES WOULD FOLLOW THE DUNCAN HUNTER LEAD AND STICK TO THE ISSUES THAT ARE VITAL TO AMERICA'S SURVIVAL.
    I COULD NOT VOTE FOR CLINTON OR OBAMA KNOWING THEY IGNORE THE WILL OF AMERICAN PEOPLE WHO WANT OUR BORDERS SAFE. THEY WOULD OPEN THE OVAL OFFICE LIKE A SAFE HAVEN FOR ILLEAGALS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES.....OBAMA SAYS HE IS OK WITH ILLEGALS HAVING A DRIVER'S LICENSE......MR OBAMA, DO YOU RECALL THE SEPTEMBER 11th? A DRIVER'S LICENSE IN THE WRONG HANDS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA!
    GROW UP AND STOP PLAYING THE RACE CARD AND THE GENDER CARD...AND DEAL A FAIR HAND TO AMERICA!!!

    January 14, 2008 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  18. michael, ny

    Hillary Clinton saying that Lyndon Johnson was more responsible for the Civil Rights Act than Dr. King is like saying that Richard Nixon gets more credit for ending the Vietnam War than all of those protestors.

    Give me a break!

    January 14, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  19. Mary, Beaver, PA

    It seems that only the Clintonistas are raising Obama's youthful drug use as an issue. Know why? It's because most people under 60 have experiemented at least once. The type of mudslinging that the Clintons engage in is one reason why many decent folks don't enter politics, a profession that is apparently only open to saints and liars.

    January 14, 2008 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  20. Jim

    If this race to the white house has now become a "race" issue, then count me out. I side with Hillary only because it now seems in this nation that whenever you say anything, it will become a race issue if it suits someone. We'll now have Sharpton out there yelling about Clinton being a racist, a ludicrous and rediculous statment that is being battered about. If every time a white person makes a comment that then someone will make a race issue out of, we've gone backward, not forward. We've come a long ways in this nation towards righting the wrongs of the past, but we will not go forward if every comment is made to be a "race" remark. Obama is black, Clinton is a woman – GET OVER IT

    January 14, 2008 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  21. Florence campbell

    BWAAA!!! HA HA HA , you can all cry and throw a fit but what can i say Hillary is my girl SHE" S THE BEST ..... BOO HOO to you and tour OBAMA

    January 14, 2008 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  22. Mike in Kentucky

    Someone above posted:

    "Our society needs to quit focusing on peoples' pasts, and concentrate on the present".

    I have often said that we are who we are because of what we've done and where we've been. We experience and hopfully, we develop and grow.

    To deny our past is to deny the building blocks that make us, us. I think this applies us individually and to us as a society.

    Sometimes it is useful to look at the long road that brought us to where we are so we can understant the totality of experience that makes up our present.

    This certainly applies to anyone running for President of the United States, in my opinion.

    We all live life, we all do things and these things, when they are public knowledge, are open for discussion.

    January 14, 2008 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  23. lorenzo

    I would like to suggest that the ENTIRE NEWS MEDIA stop the biased reporting on the candidates. Barrak Obama is the LEAST QUALIFIED candidate to hold the office of President of the united States and John McCain is George Bush III.
    Are you trying to BURY this country with your prejudice? We need new and experienced leadership to help us recover from blunders of Bush and Company.
    Please, more objectivity and less charade.

    January 14, 2008 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  24. WAKE UP AMERICA!!!

    AS A BLACK PERSON, I FEEL INSULTED THAT THE CLINTON'S WOULD LET SOMEONE LIKE JOHNSON SPEAK ON THEIR BEHALF. THIS MAN PROMOTED PORN AND LEWD BEHAVIOR ON BET FOR YEARS THAT DEGRADED THE BLACK COMMUNITY AND MADE BLACKS APPEAR AMORAL, PROFANE AND VERY UNGODLY LIKE. THE CLINTON'S ARE SHOWING US THAT THEY ARE APPARENTLY, AFTER ALL, JUST LIKE THE PEOPLE THEY HAVE CLAIMED THEY WERE ALWAYS SO DIFFERENT FROM.

    January 14, 2008 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  25. Mike in Kentucky

    I apologize for my poor editing in the above post. It is "hopefully" and "understand".

    Sorry.

    January 14, 2008 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
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